December 7, 2010

Scientists Capture And Study Anti-Hydrogen Atoms

European scientists said on Monday that the creation and capture of anti-hydrogen atoms has put them on track to solving one of the greatest cosmic mysteries.

Anti-matter is of intense interest outside the global scientific community because it has often been thought of as a potential source of boundless and almost cost-free energy.

The announcement from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) came just three weeks after another of the three teams at the particle research center said they had briefly made and caught the elusive atoms for the first time.

"With these alternative methods of producing and eventually studying anti-hydrogen, anti-matter will not be able to hide its properties from us for much longer," said Yasunori Yamazaki of the team that scored the latest breakthrough.

Anti matter is thought to have been created in the same quantities as conventional matter at the moment of the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.

U.S. physicist David Anderson discovered it in 1932.

CERN's Director-General Rolf Heuer told Reuters that new discoveries were rolling in so fast that it was likely the initial phase of LHC operations would be pushed back to the end of 2012, which is a year longer than planned.

His deputy Sergio Bertolucci said that the LHC was moving rapidly into totally new territories of scientific knowledge and the coming months could bring real insight into the "dark matter" that makes up 25 percent of the universe.

Physicists and cosmologists speculate that "dark matter" could account for at least some of the missing anti-matter, particles which were first spotted at CERN in 2002.

Some believe that it may also have some relation to the "dark energy" that constitutes about 70 percent of the universe.

Monday's announcement said the "ASACUSA" experiment captured "significant numbers" of anti-hydrogen atoms in flight in a particle trap known as CUSP.

The parallel ALPHA experiment at the AD captured 38 anti-hydrogen atoms in flight and held them fleetingly, making possible initial observations of their properties and behavior.

ASACUSA developed new equipment that has overcome the problem that prevented scientists from having a closer study of anti-particles.


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